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Report: Suns RFA Deandre Ayton signing max offer sheet with Pacers

Deandre Ayton and Myles Turner in Phoenix Suns v Indiana Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 14: Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball while being guarded by Myles Turner #33 of the Indiana Pacers in the first quarter at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on January 14, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

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The Pacers expected move on Suns restricted free agent center Deandre Ayton?

It’s arriving/has arrived. (The distinction matters. More on that later.)

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Have Ayton and the Pacers signed the offer sheet and submitted it? Until they do, a sign-and-trade is still possible.

Indiana doesn’t quite have max cap space. So, that’d indicate the Pacers must make other moves before making the offer sheet official. That buys time for a sign-and-trade. Indiana owner Herb Simon has indicated he prefers sign-and-trades rather than forcing another team’s hand with an offer sheet.

Once the offer sheet is signed and submitted, a sign-and-trade would no longer be allowed. Phoenix would face a simple choice: Match or not?

The Suns have indicated they don’t value Ayton at this amount. But to lose the talented young center – especially while contending for a championship – could be devastating. With Phoenix over the cap regardless, there’s just no way to get a similar-level replacement.

If the Suns trade for Kevin Durant while keeping Devin Booker and Chris Paul, nearly all would be forgiven. But even then, the team could have been stronger with Ayton, too (or whatever assets were necessary to include without Ayton in the Durant deal). And a Durant trade is FAR from certain.

Most likely, this Ayton decision will make or break Phoenix’s offseason. It might be expensive. He might be immature. But leveraging their team control on Ayton – whether that means keeping him to develop him or keeping him to flip him later – is the Suns’ best path for maximizing their team success.

The stakes are much lower in Indiana. The 23-year-old Ayton would be a nice addition to a young core that already includes Tyrese Haliburton, Chis Duarte and Bennedict Mathurin. But if Phoenix matches, the Pacers can just move on as they were.